The Nigerian entertainment industry was once seen as a sector for dropouts who had nothing to do before taking up entertainment. That narrative is long gone and nowadays, many showbiz practitioners in Nigeria are graduates who majored in courses that many would adjudge as “unrelated” to acting. In this report, New Telegraph’s EDWIN USOBOH takes a look at seven entertainment stars who are actually trained lawyers.
Richard Mofe-Damijo (RMD)
For years to come, the entertainment world will continue to talk and sing the praises of Richard Mofe-Damijo (RMD) for his outstanding acting career. He has remained one of the most sought after and influential actors in Nigeria. The Delta State-born thespian popularly referred to as RMD is notable in Nollywood since the late 80s. He has had his stint with politics too as an ex-Commissioner for Culture and Tourism in Delta State. Before then, he was the Special Adviser to the then Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan in 2008 for a tenure that ended in 2009. But RMD trained as a lawyer. He is an alumnus of the University of Benin (UNIBEN) where he first studied Theatre Arts. In 1997, RMD later returned to the university to study law at the University of Lagos (UNILAG) and graduated in 2004.
Falana They say a fruit does not fall far from the tree so it’s no surprise that Falz Falana turned out to be a lawyer. Falz’ dad, Femi Falana (SAN), is one of the most prominent lawyers in Nigeria. Falz gained a lot of popularity a few years ago when he first started with his short skits on social media before his music career began to gain a lot of momentum. A rapper, an actor. Falz is also a song writer, and has four critically acclaimed studio albums to his name. But beyond his music breakthrough, he is an alumnus of the University of Reading, England, with LLB honors in Law. With his knowledge of all the rules in the book, Falz was one of the prominent entertainers who lent their voices to the #End- SARS movement in 2020, which saw Nigerian youth come out in droves to protest police brutality. Apart from activism, Falz’s style of rap can be confrontational and socially conscious. He was called to the bar in 2012 after graduating from the Nigeria Law School in Abuja.
Funke Akindele first shot into the limelight in the late 1990s in the famous TV drama series ‘I Need To Know.’ Then came her major break in 2009 when she released the movie ‘Jenifa,’ which has remained of the biggest movies from this part of the world. Akindele has made a fortune for herself in Nollywood as both an actress and a producer. She co-directed ‘Omo Gheto: The Saga‘, a 2020 film that overtook Kemi Adetiba’s ‘The Wedding Party’ to become the highest-grossing Nollywood film of all time. Describing it as a massive success is an understatement. It is said that the awardwinning movie star initially studied Mass Communication at the Moshood Abiola Polytechnic (MAPOLY) before gaining admission to the University of Lagos (UNILAG) where she studied Law.
Omawumi became famous in 2007 as the runner-up on of the first edition of the ‘West African Idols’. Since then she has gone on to become one of the biggest female singers from this part of the world. Omawumi is a singer-songwriter and actress of Itsekiri ethnicity. She graduated from the Ambrose Alli University (AAU) with a Law degree. After graduating in 2005, she moved to Port Harcourt, Rivers State, where she worked with her family’s law firm called “O.S Megbele & Associates”. Omawumi also studied French…beauty and brains right? Omawumi is now married with kids but we think she too might one day pick up that wig and storm the courtroom.
Ebuka Obi-Uchendu isn’t just smart, eloquent or great at his job but also a trained lawyer. Ebuka became popular after his stint at the first edition of ‘Big Brother Naija’ in 2006. Since then, there has been no slowing down for him as he has been able to break into every aspect of media in entertainment. His interview techniques and ability to deftly navigate even the most intense conversations, whether live or prerecorded, are admirable. The TV host has amassed a great deal of fame hosting the highly watched BBNaija show. He handles the long-running Rubbin’ Minds talk show on Channels TV, co-hosts The Spot and Men’s Corner on Ebonylife, and hosts the Black Box Interview on Bounce Radio where some of the intense talks have been had. The Okija-born, Ebuka studied Law at the University of Abuja in 2005, and later did his master’s at the University of Washington. In 2020, he joined ‘Judging Matters’, a show he anchors. The show deals with small and minor legal issues in Lagos.
Femi Adebayo is a lawyer, film actor, director, producer, and Special Adviser to the Kwara State governor on Arts, Culture, and Tourism. He studied law at the University of Ilorin, Kwara State, and then graduated with a master’s degree in Performing Arts. After graduation, Femi practiced for a few years, specialising in real estate and real estate law. Adebayo began acting in 1985, the same year he featured in his father Adebayo Salami’s first movie ‘Ogun Ajaye‘. The actor is also popular for his role in the comedy ‘Survival of Jelili’.
Adetiba started out as a radio presenter with Rhythm 93.7 FM, where she became the voice behind two nationally syndicated hit shows: Soul’d Out and Sunday at the Seaside. She gradually transitioned to being a face on TV. The filmmaker later enrolled at the New York Film Academy to learn the ropes about being behind the cameras and today, her body of works as a movie director are spread across the African continent and beyond its borders. Her works have appeared on MTV Base, Soundcity TV, BET, and Netflix. She holds a degree in Law from UNILAG.
Kanayo O. Kanayo
The Living in Bondage star actor shocked everyone when he enrolled for a Law degree at the University of Abuja some years ago. The indubitable top Nollywood actor and later day politician, Anayo Modestus Onyekwere, popularly called as KOK, in 2020 crossed all the qualification hurdles that there is to be listed as a legal practitioners in Nigeria.
A top rated actor, who has shown total commitment to excellence, KOK is perhaps one of the few actors of the Nigerian motion picture industry who can be aptly described as an actor with a strong screen presence. Always the lead actor in movies, a movie producer was once quoted as saying that a movie is considered a best seller if KOK stars in it.
Asked if his decision to practice law would mean that acting would take a back seat for him, KOK chuckled and said: “Artistes don’t retire. Acting will remain my first love. The only thing is that we will be operating more now at policy level and making sure that we have all the structures that will make us operate optimally,” he surmised. He had bagged a first bachelor’s degree in Philosophy and a Master’s degree in Political Sciences from the University of Lagos.